Dhaka, March 18 (IANS) Carrying the aspirations of the nation’s cricket-loving millions, Bangladesh would hope to upset the formidable South Africa, like they did four years ago, and reach the World Cup quarterfinals from Group B here Saturday.
It was at Guyana in the Caribbean in 2007 that Bangladesh had pulled off a surprise 67-run win over South Africa in a super eight match of the World Cup. Memories can be sweet, reality can be daunting.
Group toppers South Africa, with eight points from five games, are already through to the knockout stage, and look one of the best sides in the tournament. They have done enough to shake off the “chokers” tag, displaying grit and character in overcoming adverse situations. After the loss to England, the team rallied to beat India and Ireland, thanks to the courage and determination shown by their lower-order batsmen.
They have Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, two of the best pacers in business, and their spinenrs Johan Botha, Robin Peterson and Imran Tahir look potent on the pitches in the subcontinent.
Head-to-head, South Africa have an awesome record, with the 2007 victory being Bangladesh’s only success in 13 games.
And South African skipper Graeme Smith asserted there would be no let-up for Bangladesh, though he said it would not be a revenge game for the loss at Guyana.
“We don’t come with any emotions. There is no revenge talk. Four years is a long time,” he said.
“We will be right up for the game tomorrow. Hopefully we will win and that will keep our confidence high (going into the quarterfinal matches).”
For Bangladesh, however, the 2011 World Cup has been an endless party.
The co-hosts have their task cut out at the magnificent Sher-e-Bangla Stadium as they are in a must-win situation.
But much of the fizz associated with the mega event would go if Bangladesh lose as the World Cup fever has been at its peak in this South Asian country, with frenzied supporters madly egging the home side on.
Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan admitted that South Africa were the better side, but said his boys were confident after back-to-back wins against England and the Netherlands.
“If we stick to our plans, we have a very good chance. Our boys are very confident after two victories on the trot. We will give them a tough fight.
“Overall they are a better team undoubtedly. But it’s a One-dayer and whichever team plays well will win,” he said.
For Bangladesh, Imrul Kayes has been the most prolific batsman with 184 runs inclusive of two half-centuries, and the team management would be hoping for another good knock from the left-handed opener.
The other opener Tamim Iqbal did crack a 70, but he has been inconsistent, getting out on a duck twice.
Shakib (112 from five games) has also failed to fire, and Bangladesh coach Jamie Siddons said it is time the two got runs.
In bowling, Bangladesh have relied heavily on spin. They deployed three left-arm spinners in the game against the Netherlands, but one of them — Suhrawadi Shuvo — could make way for the off-spin all-rounder Nayeem Islam.
Shakib said all the players were fit and raring to go.
The South Africans have grappled with injury problems in the tournament, but skipper Graeme Smith said AB de Villiers, Tahir and Dale Steyn were all fit. “for the first time in the tournament we have a full strength side. All the guys are fit.”
Star batsman De Villiers strained a left thigh muscle during the match against India in Nagpur, Steyn had a side strain in the last game against Ireland, while leg spinner Tahir cracked his left thumb against England two weeks ago.
The Sher-e-Bangla track has been low and slow, with slight turn for the spinners.
“During the last few games, we have seen it is not easy to bat on. No team has scored 250 plus after the first game with India,” Shakib said.